Video Shows Officers Ignoring Man in Diabetic Distress, He Dies in Jail 15 Hours After Arrest

New York, NY — Rikers Island jail complex in New York has been under fire almost since its inception in the late 19th Century. It ranks in the top ten worst prisons in the United States and also happens to be the world’s largest correctional institution.

The Free Thought Project has exposed many of the recent abuses at the prison such as prisoners being fed rat poison in their food, and the mistreatment of Ramsey Ortiz, the man who filmed cops kill Eric Garner. We also helped to expose how the city condoned the raping of inmates by guards.

Now, the New York Times has revealed yet another tragic case out of this massive facility.

In 2013, 45-year-old Carlos Mercado walked into Rikers Island jail — 15 hours later he would be dead.

According to the Times,

On June 22, 2013, Mr. Mercado was arrested in Brooklyn after allegedly trying to sell a small amount of heroin to an undercover police officer. He was taken to Rikers and, within 15 hours, died of complications of diabetes.

In this jail surveillance video obtained by The New York Times, he is seen walking unsteadily and carrying his vomit in a plastic bag. At one point he collapses on the floor and is left lying there for three minutes while correction officers step over him. Rankin & Taylor, a law firm representing Mr. Mercado’s family, is in settlement negotiations with the city.

Upon entering the jail, it is a matter of record that Mercado told them that he suffers from diabetes. Guards allegedly took no action on this claim and only hours later, Mercado would begin to experience fainting spells, dizziness, and vomiting. All of this is seen on prison surveillance cameras.

At one point in the video, officers can be seen callously walking around the dying man’s lifeless body as he lay on the floor. Instead of taking his claims seriously for diabetes, guards told him that his loss of consciousness and sickness was due to heroin withdrawal.

Hours later, at 9:06 am, after being ignored by prison staff, Mercado died. Contrary to the claims of heroin withdrawal, the autopsy report that Mercado died from exactly what he warned guards about upon entering the jail — complications from diabetes.

Mercado’s death shows us much more than terrible prison conditions. It shows us the horrid reality of the war on drugs.

Had police dedicated their resources to chasing after real criminals, who maliciously harm others, Mercado would most likely still be alive. Instead, they went after low-level drug dealers out to make ends meet in the only manner they know how, and a man spent his last hours alive, begging for help as he was locked in a cage.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.